Anti-N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor encephalitis in children: Incidence and experience in Hong Kong

Brain Dev. 2018 Jun;40(6):473-479. doi: 10.1016/j.braindev.2018.02.005. Epub 2018 Mar 26.


Aim: The study aims to analyze the incidence, clinical features, investigation findings and treatment outcomes of anti-N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor encephalitis in children from Hong Kong.

Method: A retrospective study was carried out on paediatric patients diagnosed with anti-NMDAR encephalitis in Hong Kong from January 2009 to December 2015.

Results: Fifteen patients (67% female, 93% Chinese) were identified over seven years and the estimated incidence in Hong Kong was 2.2/million children per year (95% CI 1.2-3.6). The median age of presentation was 12 years (range 1-17 years). The most common symptom groups observed were abnormal psychiatric behavior or cognitive dysfunction (14/15, 93%) and seizures (14/15, 93%), followed by speech dysfunction (13/15, 87%), movement disorders (12/15, 80%), decreased level of consciousness (10/15, 67%) and autonomic dysfunction or central hypoventilation (5/15, 33%). The median number of symptom groups developed in each patient was 5 (range 3-6). All patients were treated with intravenous immunoglobulin and/or steroids. Three patients (20%) with more severe presentation required additional plasmapheresis and rituximab. Outcome was assessable in 14 patients. Among those eleven patients who had only received intravenous immunoglobulin and/or steroids, nine patients (82%) achieved full recovery. One patient (9%) had residual behavioral problem, while another one (9%) who developed anti-NMDAR encephalitis after herpes simplex virus encephalitis was complicated with dyskinetic cerebral palsy and epilepsy. Among those three patients who required plasmapheresis and rituximab, one (33%) had full recovery and two (66%) had substantial recovery. The median duration of follow up was 20.5 months (range 3-84 months).

Conclusion: Anti-NMDAR encephalitis is an acquired, severe, but potentially treatable disorder. Ethnicity may play a role in the incidence of anti-NMDAR encephalitis and we have provided a local incidence with the majority of patients being Chinese. The diagnosis of anti-NMDAR encephalitis should be considered in children presenting with a constellation of symptoms including psychiatric and neurological manifestations. Patients may respond to first line immunotherapy. For those who do not, second line therapy is indicated in order to achieve a better outcome.

Keywords: Anti-NMDAR encephalitis; Autoimmune encephalitis; Encephalitis; NMDAR antibody; Neuroimmunology.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anti-N-Methyl-D-Aspartate Receptor Encephalitis / epidemiology*
  • Anti-N-Methyl-D-Aspartate Receptor Encephalitis / physiopathology
  • Anti-N-Methyl-D-Aspartate Receptor Encephalitis / psychology
  • Anti-N-Methyl-D-Aspartate Receptor Encephalitis / therapy
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hong Kong / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome